By Jodi Ware
Recently I was asked how to encourage a wife who is frustrated with the way her husband leads her.
This is a situation that occurs regularly and, when it does, I seek to encourage them in several ways.
First, I remind a wife of the sovereignty of God. He is has wisely and lovingly placed her in this marriage relationship with this particular man. And He is accomplishing His good purposes in each of them. It is not a mistake. She can be confident of that.
Second, I encourage her to pray. The work that needs to happen in her husband’s life to grow as a leader, as well as in her own to grow as a follower, is work that only God can do. Of course, wives can seek to be a godly influence (as we see in 1 Peter 3), but we wives must guard against our sinful tendency to manipulate, and to try to change our husbands. So pray fervently for God to work.
I remind a wife that her husband will answer to God for how he leads, and that she will answer to God for how she follows. I try to help her see that God is the ultimate authority, and her submission to her husband is a reflection of her ultimate submission to the Lord.
I am thankful for the chart Wayne Grudem developed a number of years ago, with the spectrum of husbands’ leadership, with extreme passivity on one end, and harsh authoritarianism on the other. I try to determine where the wife sees her husband on this spectrum. If the husband is leaning toward passivity, I encourage the wife to look to him, to lean on him. It is easy for many women to jump into a vacuum of leadership and take control. There are times when we need to be quiet, and to literally and figuratively look to our husband to lead. It is good for a husband to feel the weight of his wife leaning on him for leadership. I have seen the Lord work in a number of marriages, as husbands grow in taking on this rightful responsibility.
If the wife talks about her husband’s harshness, I seek to ask discerning questions. I have talked with wives who are afraid to tell me how serious it is; I have also talked to wives who exaggerate how serious it is. It may be that authorities—church elders, and perhaps government authorities, need to be consulted. Again, much prayer for discernment is needed.
Finally, I try to encourage a wife to cultivate an eternal perspective. Life is short, and then there is eternity in the presence of the Lord. No matter how difficult life is, or marriage is, it will be over, and all of the struggles will pale in comparison with the future glory that awaits us. As Thomas Watson said, “Death begins a wicked man’s hell, but it puts an end to a godly man’s hell.”
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